Decorating through the ages | Columnists

Decorating through the ages | Columnists

As a child, decorating for Christmas was as exciting as opening gifts on Christmas morning. We kids would no sooner be done eating the last of the turkey from Thanksgiving when we’d start begging Mom to get started but she wouldn’t even hear of it before December. So Dec. 1, it was.  

We’d haul everything out of the attic, which was a small door in the corner of my brother’s bedroom. It was easy access but dangerous because there was only one sheet of plywood for flooring — everything else balanced on beams, including us. 

But we went all out. We hung everything there was, no matter how old or how tacky. We even sat at the table and made endless paper chain garlands from construction paper and tacked it into the four corners of the room, creating a saggy x on the ceiling. Any strands left over were hung like tendrils wherever we felt like putting them. Mistletoe was hung in a doorway and we girls were always trying to catch our brother standing under it. And there was the large, wooden crisscrossed candy canes that my brother had painted in school that simply had to be hung on the front door for the whole world to see. My mother treated that decoration like it was the holy grail.

Time moved on, and after we all left home Mom and Dad made no move to decorate. Since they hosted Christmas we siblings would all meet there to do it for them, but the new starting date was the 15. And now we were more selective as to what we put out. Let’s face it, the decorations were getting pretty worn out but you can’t convince survivors of the Depression to throw any of it away so we left it in the box. The tree itself had become so thinned out that I taped green wrapping paper to the walls behind it until they gave in and let us buy them a new one. 

And all of this replayed itself when my children were young. They were so eager to decorate and I still was too. We made our chain garlands out of foil because I was not a child of Depression and felt it caught the light better. We bought real trees and spray-on snow for the windows, all while singing to Christmas music.

I still loved to decorate after they moved out because I knew they were coming here for the Holidays. But this year I really needed a push. And I almost needed an ambulance. Last year we had decided to put all the decorations in bins and store them in the loft as opposed to the attic because the loft had actual stairs but I found the new situation exhausting.

In the attic, I would let the boxes slide down the stairs. In the loft I had to physically carry them down — and through the garage — and through the house, all while wearing a winter coat because it’s freezing up there. It was so cold that my ceramic snowmen had burrowed into the fleece and were stuck tight. Now they are furry. They are going back to the attic this year because after five trips up the loft stairs and back down, and five more trips to return the empty bins, my heart was pumping hard and it kind of scared me. I’d rather risk falling down the pull down stairs of the attic. 

And decorating itself is exhausting. I have to move furniture around to make room for the tree, which means I have to get the broom out. Then I have to remove all the pictures from the piano and other flat surfaces so I can lay down fleece and snowmen. Then I have to remove all the pillows from the window seat so I can store the pictures, finding more Christmas decorations that didn’t make it to the loft. I want to hang these but they are missing the little ornament hangers and I know I just had them in my hands last month but don’t know where I put them so I start rifling through drawers and wondering why I am keeping all this junk and now I am on a whole new mission. 

Each thing I did snowballed into something else and the house was looking like a unicorn just breezed through here. Since we had put the tree in the family room I took all of the toys out of there because it looked too cluttered and put them in the sunroom. Then the sunroom looked cluttered so I took down my extra sewing station and put it elsewhere which as you know, created more clutter somewhere else.

I finally understand why my mother didn’t want to be bothered any longer. To an older parent, it’s more than just decorating. It’s turning your whole house on end without the help of eager children to ease the load.

Somehow it’s all worth it when the little people show up filled with Christmas expectations and you can see the light of Christmas in their eyes. 

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